After months of speculation, the Lakers finally ended their prolonged search for their next head coach. At the start of the next season, Frank Vogel will be running things for the Lakeshow, and Jason Kidd will be his right hand man.
The consensus reaction to these hires haven’t been universally despised or revered. The public response to the Lakers’ latest moves seems to be along the lines of, “Eh, they could have done worse.” Even with that, bringing in Vogel/Kidd seems to have sparked a little curiosity for what’s in store for LA.
Both have brought in some success to the teams that they previously coached – Vogel definitely more so than Kidd – but their track records aren’t exactly perfect. Because of Vogel’s previous success both with the Pacers and against LeBron, and because of Kidd’s rapport with LeBron as well as his reputation as a player, the Lakers may have made a smarter move than most are giving them credit for.
If hiring these two is to work out for the best, one crucial question needs to be answered for both of them
Which results will Vogel bring to Los Angeles?
Besides Tyronn Lue – and this is from a technical standpoint – Vogel was the most accomplished candidate on the market.
What he did for the Pacers at the height of the Paul George era would make any team jump at the first chance to bring him aboard. At the height of LeBron James’ prime, Vogel and the Pacers pushed the King to play to the best of his potential. Sure that team fizzled in a short time, but not much of that was on Frank’s head.
History did not repeat itself in Orlando. What Frank did for the Magic both during and after the Rob Hennigan era, unfortunately, would make any team be more than skeptical of his abilities. Vogel did a whole lot of nothing in Orlando, and after the team had two completely forgettable seasons with him as coach, he got the ax.
The big difference between the pseudo-contender Pacer teams and the lottery bound-Magic teams was obviously the personnel. Indiana had one of the league’s best starting fives (though not much else besides that) headed by Paul George and Roy Hibbert. The closest players Orlando had to their level – The league was so very much different back in 2014 – were Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier.
The conclusion here is that if you give Vogel lemons, then he’ll make lemonade. The roster he’s inheriting from the Lakers has some lemons. As a whole, it seems to be right in the middle between the one he had with the Pacers and the one he had with the Magic.
Basing off of their results from last season, Vogel is entering a situation that is all too familiar to him. The Lakers had the 24th-rated offense (107.8) and the 12th-rated defense (109.5) which is right up his alley since defense is his calling card and offense is his one blemish.
When the Pacers were playing at the top of their game, the highest offensive rating they had was in 2012-2013, where they had the 19th-rated offense (104.3). Their defense in that time was one of the league’s best in that span. Orlando fell into the same boat when Vogel coached there, except the lack of defensive personnel made the team just as bad in that department.
A lot can change if the Lakers acquire a superstar via free agency and/or trade. For now, the current Lakers that are slated to be on the roster next season are LeBron, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Mo Wagner and Isaac Bonga.
Vogel has the chance to prove that he’s more than just a defensive guru. If the Lakers put the right personnel around him, or at least not do what they did last summer, then this could work out very well for both parties.
It might help to have one of the NBA’s greatest point guards at your side to do that, which is why Jason Kidd also begs a crucial question
Was it the chicken or the egg in Milwaukee?
Milwaukee finally reaching its potential after all these years has been for everyone except probably Kidd, whose firing last season coinciding with the Bucks’ explosion this season isn’t a good look for him.
That didn’t stop Los Angeles from giving him another chance. His friendship with LeBron and mentoring role with Lonzo probably played a part in Kidd getting the gig, but maybe there’s more to this than just having the right connections.
Even with all his failures as the Bucks’ head coach, Kidd does have plenty of playoff experience under his belt. Since making the transition from player to coach, he’s only missed the playoffs once. In that time, he’s won one playoff series out of three, and in the two he’s lost, his team fought until the entire end.
That doesn’t exactly help his case. Not having much success after making the playoffs even with the talent he had with Giannis alone. Then again, maybe it’s not his fault.
When Jason arrived in Milwaukee, the NBA was only starting to move away from players who could not space the floor. In his first season as the Bucks coach, the team went 30-23, even with Jabari Parker out for the season and Giannis still in development. They then killed their spacing when they traded Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams at the trade deadline.
The lack of spacing led to a late-season stumble. The team went 11-18 the rest of the way before the Bulls eliminated them in the first round. It only got worse in the summer when the team traded away floor-spacers Ersan Ilyasova and Jared Dudley to make room for Greg Monroe a floor-clogger.
Milwaukee gradually added more spacing around Giannis as time went on, but the Bucks did not have much shooting in the frontcourt between Monroe, John Henson and Thon Maker. The one big they had that could shoot, Mirza Teletovic, struggled with blood clots. Kidd wasn’t blameless, but the Bucks’ lack of shooting, specifically in the frontcourt, hindered their game. The team’s three-point percentage varied year-by-year, but they were usually on the bottom of three-point field goal attempts a game.
Things are different now. The team brought back Ilyasova and added Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic, all of whom are respected three-point shooters. The added shooting has proven that this is the ideal team to build around the Greek Freak.
But what if they had this type of shooting the whole time? Would Kidd have looked as bad had the front office known earlier that the more shooting around Giannis, the better? This is something worth monitoring with the Lakers next season to see what they put around LeBron. If they put the right spacing around James – which, let’s face it, is what they should done last summer – then Kidd may not have been as bad of a coach as we originally perceived.
Rob Pelinka and co. have come across a lot of scrutinies lately for some of their moves. By hiring Frank Vogel and Jason Kidd, they’ve shown at least admirable trait: They’re not afraid to experiment.